Jeff Madrick’s *Age of Greed*

Here is my review, along with Diane Coyle’s review of Tim Harford, and here is an excerpt (from the most negative part of my review):

…I found numerous points to object to. The chapter is titled “Milton Friedman, Proselytizer,” and there is a good deal of (fascinating) information about Friedman’s early years as a “fanatically religious” Jew. One is left with a picture of Friedman as a rather clever but irresponsible simplifier and dogmatist. There is not a comparable discussion of Friedman’s role in insisting on good empirical work and the testing and falsifiability of economics propositions, his building of the University of Chicago department with first-rate scholars and future Nobel laureates, and the numerous times he changed his mind on economic issues, including on monetary theory and policy. Friedman was much more a scientist and a skeptic than this essay lets on.

There are also particular errors and omissions. The discussion of Friedman’s desire to eliminate social programs does not mention that he wanted to replace them with a guaranteed annual income. It is wrong to claim that “the instability of velocity is what finally undid monetarism in the 1980s” when volatile interest rates were a much bigger problem, and in open economies such as Switzerland the exchange rate became the issue (monetary velocity moves in strange ways but it does so slowly). Few economists would agree with Madrick’s claim that “Friedman and Schwartz . . . made little advance over what was already known” or that their Monetary History had little empirical basis. Contrary to Madrick’s view, it is now widely accepted that inflation—or at least ongoing inflation, as Friedman made clear—is always a monetary phenomenon. These aren’t mere accidental oversights; they contribute to a systematic downgrading of Friedman’s legacy of scholarly depth and impact.


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